Meet Lakshmi Menon – the impulsive, crazy teenager who is also mature beyond her years.
Behind Lakshmi Menon’s mature façade is an irrational, impulsive teenager. One who admits to never reading scripts before signing a film and picks movies purely based on mood. “I might be in the middle of a fight with my mom and if I get an offer for a film, there are chances that I will instantly say no to it. But if I am with my friends and I am having a whale of a time, I promptly agree to it,” she laughs as we begin.
Her latest release, Naan Sigappu Manithan further adds credence to her “lucky mascot” tag in Kollywood. Her Meera stands tall with the hero in every frame. In fact for the actress, it’s a film where she broke her usual norm – she read the script as Vishal insisted on it. “He wanted to make sure I was clear about my role. For me the kissing scene was no big deal but we were prepared for the media at the press meet. I knew exactly what questions they are going to ask me,” she quips.
[quote align=’left’]Her Jigarthanda co-star Sidharth was mortified when she revealed that she was a fan of his since the age of eight. He told me not to share this enlightening piece of information with anyone.[/quote]The teenager surfaces again when we ask how she prepared for her roles. “I hate doing any kind of homework and that applies to everything.” With touching simplicity she further adds- “You know what? I find it stupefying when I hear actors talk about getting into the character and how they find it difficult to shrug it off post shooting. How do I get into a character? It beats me. I just follow my director.”
Learning to love cinema
Films came to Lakshmi at an age when she hadn’t started thinking about a career. Impressed by her dance show on TV, Malayalam director Vinayan offered her a role in his film. She was far from excited though. Her only concern was if it would make her lose interest in studies. “I felt I was too young to decide on anything. My mom asked me to give it a shot. Was she nervous on her debut? “I was only in my eighth grade, and I wasn’t really thinking about what I was doing. They shot close to my home and so I wasn’t nervous at all. I played the hero’s sister,” she recalls.
It all changed a year later when she got her first Tamil film, Kumki (2012). “During the shooting of Kumki, I started loving acting. For me it was not just the fame or money but the process of acting. Like being able to get a shot right in five takes. My first day was a song sequence and by the second day I was doing fewer takes,” she tells me. Lakshmi grew up on Tamil cinema “I used to watch Tamil more than Malayalam. I loved to read the latest gossip, new releases and interviews.”
Her conversations with fellow actors invariably start with nostalgia. When she met her Sundarapandyan director and actor Sasikumar, she told him how she recalls seeing Subramanyapuram when she was in her 6th grade. Her Jigarthanda co-star Sidharth was mortified when she revealed that she was a fan of his since the age of eight- “He told me not to share this enlightening piece of information with anyone,” she chuckles.
The teenager takes a back seat as she starts to talk about her experience doing Tamil movies. “They revere actors here irrespective of their age. All that reverence can sometimes get on your nerves but then now I am used to it,” she says, adding “Cinema is a way of life here, the passion is unbelievable. I was quite taken aback when at a traffic signal, a couple of street peddlers came and spoke about my films in detail, even telling me where to improve,”
She admits to feeling unhappy about missing promotions and events of her films as it usually clashes with her school schedule. “It’s the irony of my life. I will be happy after a great shoot is done, but all that vanishes as I will be in Kochi for the most exciting part of it all – the promotions and release.”
Meanwhile three of her films are ready for release. There is Manjapai with Vimal, Karthik Subbaraj’s Jigarthanda and Sippai with Gautam Karthik. While she terms Manjapai as a serious subject, she is excited about playing an idli seller in Jigarthanda- “I said yes when I heard that Sidharth was the hero. It’s only after I came on location that I was told about my character. I remember the first day of shoot. It was a romantic scene and I am sitting behind Sidharth on his bike, instead of my dialogue I told him that I am his big fan,” she recalls with a laugh. As for Sippai, she rates Gautam Karthik as one of “most talented actors she has worked with so far.” [quote align=’right’]It’s the irony of my life. I will be happy after a great shoot is done, but all that vanishes as I will be in Kochi for the most exciting part of it all – the promotions and release.[/quote]
Lakshmi usually comes unaccompanied on the sets –“Things will go haywire if my grand mom or mom comes with me. I remember when the lip lock thing came they were clueless about the term lip lock,” she laughs adding that she usually likes to sign a clause before she agrees to a film: “I am very clear and demanding regarding such things. There should be clarity between you and the director on what happens”
So is no-glamour part of that clause? “See glamour is a matter of perception. I’m just not cut out for it. As simple as that,” she admits adding that she usually steers clear of giving creative inputs about her look – “When I get compliments for my outfits in Naan Sigappu Manidhan, I stifle a laugh. I didn’t lift a finger. I simply wore what was given. I have no personal designer nor do I worry my head over it,” says the actress.
Does she think an actress should just stick to playing her age on screen? “Of course, otherwise it doesn’t look good on screen. I think I look mature beyond my age and it has worked in my favour. Otherwise I don’t want to play a 30 year old at this stage,” she offers. She’s pretty clear on the limited shelf life of actresses. “It’s about how you carry yourself. Trisha looks great even now and so she gets roles suiting her. Nobody forces you to do anything. Besides I know that I too have a certain shelf life and I will gracefully make an exit when that time comes. The graph that is up is sure to come down some day,” she notes.
What’s her ambition? The irrational in her takes over as she laughs, “My ambition right now is to pass my exams.” Studying is hard for her she says, “Forget about studying on a film set. Tomorrow I have exams and I am not studying,”
Lakshmi likes to take each day as it comes – “I can never think of working on a calculated pace or plan. It will be a comedy of errors,” she says. She is a diehard romantic who lists Vinnaithandi Varuvaya and Varanam Aayiram as her all-time favourite films. And what keeps her grounded? Her friends back home who laugh when she tries to tell them that she is a star in Chennai. Maybe a trip to Chennai soon will take care of that. Especially if they happen to be at a traffic signal with street peddlers around.